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Should a veteran with a potential brain injury be diagnosed by a neurologist or a nurse?

Congressman Robert Pittenger HeadshotVeterans Affairs rules require traumatic brain injury exams be administered by a neurologist, neurosurgeon, psychiatrist, or physiatrist, yet a recent investigation found nurses or physician assistants had been used to diagnose traumatic brain injuries for nearly 25,000 veterans nationwide, including 3,000 in North Carolina.

Unfortunately, these types of problems at the VA have become all too common. As your Congressman, I am working hard from both a legislative and practical standpoint to make sure our veterans receive the care they’ve earned and deserve.

One of my first moves after being elected was to hire the most experienced veterans services representative available to serve as my District Director. My office is currently helping more than 500 veterans navigate red tape, in addition to thousands we’ve helped in the past.

My office also gave leadership to supporting the proposed “Stamp Out PTSD” semi-postal stamp, which will help raise money for PTSD research and treatment. Last week, my office sent a letter to the Postmaster General, cosigned by more than 100 Members of Congress, including Senators Burr and Tillis, in support of the Stamp Out PTSD proposal. This great idea has long been the project of local veteran Garland Denny.

Clearly, there are systemic issues at the VA requiring permanent, legislative solutions, which is why the U.S. House of Representatives has so far passed 33 separate bills in 2015-2016 to support veterans.

For example, the VA Accountability Act (H.R. 1994), which I co-sponsored, serves our veterans by allowing the Department of Veterans Affairs to dismiss or demote employees based on poor performance or misconduct. The legislation also increases accountability and performance measures for senior VA executives.

Last month, the House of Representatives approved $176 billion to fund the VA, which is an increase of more than $13 billion over last year to provide for increased veterans care.

Please know we didn’t write a blank check with no accountability. Due to the troubling mismanagement issues at the VA, our funding bill included provisions to increase accountability and oversight. To stop taxpayer-funded rewards for poorly performing employees, our legislation prohibits senior VA management from receiving bonuses.

We also passed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Act (H.R. 203), which requires an independent third party to conduct annual evaluations of the mental health care and suicide prevention programs within the VA. This bill includes a pilot program to increase psychiatric care at the VA through incentives for psychiatrists who commit to work at the VA for at least two years.

Our brave veterans sacrificed so much on behalf of our liberty. They deserve the best care available, which is why I am committed to providing the best service possible in helping veterans cut through red tape, and continuing to fight for legislation which reforms and restores common sense at the VA.

WEEKLY UPDATE

The Human Rights Campaign is now pressuring the Federal Aviation Administration to withhold funding from North Carolina over HB2. In response to this latest threat, I plan to introduce an amendment to the Transportation funding bill to block the Obama Administration from withholding funds through the FAA and related agencies.

Our Founding Fathers developed a time-tested process for changing and updating laws through Congress and judicial oversight. My amendment will uphold that process by taking away the threat of withholding funds until this case is properly adjudicated.

This past Memorial Day, we celebrated the Patriots who secured our freedom. We should honor their sacrifice through our civic duty to vote in the special Tuesday, June 7th Congressional and Judicial election.

Congressman Robert Pittenger (NC-09) is Chairman of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, Vice Chairman of the Financial Services Task Force to Investigate Terrorism Financing, and serves on the House Financial Services Committee, with a special focus on supporting small businesses, community banks, and credit unions.

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